Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas in Mindelo

The local town seemed to continue as normal on Christmas Eve as we popped out to the market to get some fresh veggies and a stack of bananas – there are bananas being sold in vast quantities on every street corner so you feel the need to buy some of every trip off the boat!

African supermarket

A few of the other northern European boats celebrated Christmas in the evening and it was nice to have Swiss and French kids on the boats next to us excitedly running up and down the pontoon.

We were relieved not to have any banging music disturbing the marina on Christmas Eve and were looking forward to a peaceful night, it was a bit disappointing that we had a howling gale in the marina, must have been up to 30 knots of wind which made for an uncomfortable night but I was pleased that we were in the marina and not dancing around the anchorage!

Look what Santa brought us !

Christmas morning was sunny (whilst it was raining in the UK J) but still super windy.  We started the morning with Michael Buble’s Christmas album much to Mark’s delight and then whilst we sat having our breakfast and opening presents we moved onto Mary Poppins! Not that we would be watching at home but we were both feeling a bit homesick and it was nice to have some Christmas traditions.

Before leaving the UK we had thought it was odd returning with so many Christmas gifts but it actually was very very nice to have such lovely presents to open and to be thinking of home.

We ventured out of the marina with the hope of using the local wifi to Skype family, but various other tourists had the same thought so there was no chance of that! So we hurried back to the boat for a few quick (expensive) calls from the Sat Phone.

Away in a manger.....

Later in the day we went back out to the local park and it was really nice to see all the locals out and enjoying themselves, the kids all dressed up in their best clothes and showing off their new toys – scooters, skates. It seemed important for the local community to come together at Christmas

Cape Verde Christmas Day

We then return to our lovely cosy boat, the wind was still howling, to sit down to our Christmas dinner, yes we did have a roast dinner, it was only a chicken/nut style roast which we brought with us, but it was delicious. We finished it off with a mint tea and some lovely biscuits which our very kind neighbours had given to us J oh and a small piece of Green and Blacks chocolate - thanks mum for the Christmas chocolate J

Yum !

The chilled out town of Mindelo

I am not sure what we were expecting of Cape Verde, we had seen one of the tourist resorts on a property abroad programme in the past but now we are here the TV was not really a true reflection of the real Cape Verdes.

Sao Vincent is one of 14 islands and the capital is Mindelo and has a population of around 70,000 with over 90% of the islands population living in the capital.  The islands were once Portuguese although they lie just over 300 miles west of the coast of Africa and were given independence status in 1975. Many islanders still seem to speak Portuguese although it seems to sound more Spanish than the Portuguese we encountered in Portugal (I know this may sound odd but it is more about how the language is pronounced), due to the African influence many speak Crioula and then to add to the confusion some locals speak French, oh plus the fact that often the younger generation can speak English!

The islands have their own currency which you are only able to obtain when you are actually in Cape Verde but the supermarkets will also accept Euros.

The centre of the town which is close to the marina is quite colonial and relatively well maintain, with brightly coloured building in every colour imaginable.

One of Mindelo's government buildings
Even the Club Nautico (Sailing club) has it own distinct look, shade by the palm trees.

Colonial Club Nautico
The people are also quite colourful and most local shopping is through the woman sat at the side of the road selling the fruit and veg, this is the local market and a hive of activity in the morning – even on boxing day when in the UK people would be rushing to the sales to pick up a bargain!

In Mindelo there us a University so there are quite a few students around although not to the same extent as a University town in Europe but it was interesting to see the local library (full of students) with a range of English language academic publications e.g. The Economist.

There is little begging on the streets although you are often approached by friendly entrepreneurs trying to sell t-shirts, necklaces and other local produce.  As you approach the outskirts of the Mindelo as you would expect it does become slightly more run down and on a Sunday walk it was interesting to see that locals market selling clothes, household goods, etc also funny that there is a booming trade in the barbers on a Sunday morning J.  The very outskirts of the town turn almost to a shanty town with small breeze block buildings covered with tin roofs, obviously no electric or water in sight but lots of smiley happy children :) 

Tin shacks on the edge of town
Our walk took us out the back of Mindelo through the dried river bed following the elusive “mules track”, we basically scrabbled of rocks looking for any sort of track just knowing we had to head up!  The views back over Mindelo were quite impressive.

Amanda scrabbling over rocks to get to the top

Mark relived to be at the top
View over Mindelo
 Over the hill we headed for the village of Salamensa and were hoping for a dip in the sea.  The beach looked idyllic in the distance.

Idyllic beach in distance

Idyllic wife in foreground

As we neared the village we were slightly shocked about how rural/poor it was as we walked along the road scattered with pigs, chickens, dogs, small children and rubbish plus the smells that go along with that environment.

Ah the smells of Africa...........
 The beach the other side of the village was stunning and deserted, the sea was beautifully clear and was welcomed by our hot walking feet.

Beautiful beach looking north

Not so pretty looking south

We were not looking back to the hot and dirty walk back and after no walking for a week we were shattered and looking forward to a cup of tea on our return to the boat – we are such Brits!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Canaries to Cape Verde

Day 1

We left Santa Cruz finally at about mid day, after final packing of food stuff, filling with water and sorting out our exit papers at the Port Authority.

We have a LOT of food on board and about 500Ltrs of water, enough to last us all the way to the Caribbean as we are unsure what is/isnt available in Cape Verde.

After clearing the port and setting sail the wind began to build from the NE and soon we were bowling along at 6-7 knts.

Leaving Santa Cruz

Sailing away from a cloudy Santa Cruz
Towards evening we the SE corner of Tenerife and the wind started to drop, we had just enough wind to keep moving until the small hours of Friday when the wind disappeared completely. We spent the next 11 hours becalmed and drifting on the current.
We had a visit by a pop of very inquisitive dolphins who were attracted to our sonar depth finder and they spent quite a while swimming under the sender and setting off our shallow water alarm ! They then retreated a few meters and had a chat on the surface whilst eyeing Amanda in the cockpit .

Not the best photo but always a challenge, see the 2 fins heading towards the boat but also look under the water & you
can see the outline of a dolphin under the water

The wind finally returned at 1900 so we pointed Magnum south and had dinner (mushroom and leek risotto..Mmmm)
The night was pitch black with no moon at all, but the stars were amazing, even putting on a show of shooting stars just for us.

Distance for the first 24hrs was a very disappointing 86NM

The sunsets on a long night ahead
Day 2

Hoping for a better day today, the night was again black and cold. We were past by 2 ships just about visible on the horizon, but other than that we haven't seen a soul.
The NE trade winds have kicked in and we are now rolling downwind at 6-7 knts in a 20knt breeze. The sea state is a little confused as the wind is pushing a small swell , but this is colliding with the huge ocean swell rolling in from the NW, with poor little Magnum bobbing like a cork in the middle.

The only wildlife today has been a couple of swallows who have obviously been blown of the coast of Africa and are now lost, Amanda (being the bird lady!) has tried to offer them a comfy birth onboard but they are having none of it.

Days run of 96NM is a bit better than yesterday but we are still making up for the period where we were becalmed

Day 3

Daily run of 120NM not too bad under the circumstances.
Yesterday evening and into the night the wind just kept on increasing up to over 30knts. Which was a bit unnerving as the weather files that we had downloaded suggested it would have dropped.

Being chased down by the waves
Still Magnum did her usual job of looking after us whist surfing the massive walls of water that roared out of the dark from behind us. I have heard it said that it is a brave man that looks backwards in these conditions as the waves tower above the boat lifting us up, passing underneath and then throwing our 10ton boat down the front at surfing speeds. Luckily for us it was dark so I didnt have to prove my bravery!

The nights are very very dark and long this time of year, moon has barely showed above the horizon most nights, the stars are “amazing” (copy right Brian Cox)
Interesting phenomenon last night we I could see lights under the water about 200m from us, I thought I had imagined it but then we passed some more closer to us. Turns out they are Jellies about 35cm diameter that light themselves from within, very odd as they looked just like uplighters in a posh swimming pool
Time is passing pretty slowly on-board, but all is good. We have watched a few DVD,s and read some books, I an currently reading Mysterious Island by Jules Vern, a very clever chap who had many ideas ahead of his time, Amanda has finished The Legacy and is now onto The Kills.

I have always been a “reader” so its great to have some guilt free down time to catch up on my reading. We read so much between us that we should probably offered our services as proof readers or book critics before we left home.

Day 5

Life in the tumble dryer, pretty much sums up life below on Magnum for the last 24hrs. We have had big seas driven in from a depression hundreds of miles north of us and a smaller wind driven swell travelling at 90 deg to this. Somewhere in the middle is us and Magnum being tossed around like a cork.

Still, we have had some good winds and covered 132NM today.
Had veggie fajita wraps for dinner, its odd how we both look forward to a cooked evening meal even though as we head further south the temperature has been rising. Comfort food I guess.

We have settled into a pretty good routine now and although we are both tired, we have had some good sleep. I have discovered that I am pretty good at cat napping and can function pretty well taking my sleep in 15min “bursts?” and then being woken by an egg timer, quick check on horizon, course, wind strength and direction, then back for another 15.

Oh and we saw another yacht today, our first since the Canaries. Odd all that open space and they set a course straight at us. It was a bit unnerving at first having someone so close (probably 1/2 mile at closest) anyway we waved and they continued west into the Atlantic.

Day 6

We crossed the Tropic of Cancer at some point in the last 24hrs, a first for both of us!
The temperature has become noticeably warmer, I am typing this at 04.59 and I am in a tee shirt !

Highlights of the day ? We saw another yacht which we caught and passed, it was nail biting stuff like watching two snails jockeying for position at a speed barely noticeable to the naked eye ! Still it meant our entertainment was stretched over most of the day and Magnum did the honourable thing and left them in our wake.

Always a challenge to take a picture over the swell
We also passed the time doing a general knowledge quiz, from a book called “so you thing you know everything” (thanks Michelle X) I’m sure you will all be as surprised as I was to find out that, apparently, neither of us do know everything.
Had delicious veggie and lentil soup this evening followed by 6 hours solid sleep for Mark, thanks Amanda :-)

Winds are forecast to be lighter for the next couple of days, not sure what that will mean to out arrival time at Mindelo, but we want to avoid arriving in the dark so may have to slow our approach.

Day 7

122NM covered and a good days sail wind was F4/5 pretty much all day and it has been sunny and hot.

We are pretty close to arriving now so will have to do some sums of speed vs distance to ensure that we will arrive in daylight hours.
Entry into Mindelo on Sao Vicente doesn't look particularly difficult but neither our paper or electronic chart shows any useful detail such as hazards or depths !

Day 8

Disappointingly we had to deliberately slow our progress to ensure a daylight arrival which meant an extra night at sea – another 2 Episodes of The Mentalist for Amanda plus 1 Spartacus -  we are so glad to have something to get us through the long nights, reading is not always possible when all you want to do is shut your eyes and fall asleep J

Sods law kicked in and the wind kept strengthening and making us go faster, to combat this Mark was forced to keep reducing our sail area.
The other consequence of rising wind and limited sail was that the sea state got bigger and Magnum got rollier making sleep pretty difficult. All in all not our best night at sea, but our only option really as the islands aren't lit at night and from what we have read the charted position of the islands can be up to a mile astray on most electronic charts ! The thought of hitting one at night was terrifying!

Dawn broke around 0700 and we could see the islands either side of us Sao Vincent to port and Santo Antao to starboard. At this point the wind dropped and we motored the last hour into Mindelo harbour shattered but excited.

Sunrise on day 8 approaching Cape Verde

Santa Antao looking hazy

Small island to navigate around in entrance to Mindelo

Approaching Mindelo harbour
We are tied up in the new marina and the people are extremely helpful and friendly.
We have checked in with immigration and the police and it seems we now stuck here for Christmas as we have to do a reverse paper trail to leave and all the offices are shut until the 27th.

If you have been following our route on the other blog you will have already seen our progress, we have added a couple of photos but to be honest there was not much to see apart from sea!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Final day in Tenerife - getting ready to go

With favourable weather forecast we didn’t want to delay and it was good to have our final bits and pieces ready to go.

We had some lovely sunshades made for the cockpit by a fantastic Spanish guy, he spoke 3 words or English to go with our 3 words of Spanish but he delivered exactly what we wanted J.  Now we just need the sunshine of the Caribbean J

Lovely new sun shades
We also have a brand new VHF radio which Dan delivered which will be more reliable than what we had and if another boat picks us up AIS he will be able to obtain our MMSI number and call us directly on the radio.  One of our most important new purchases is a new liferaft, we hoped just to get ours serviced but this was not possible as ours was just too old L although we hope never to us it, we want to if we do it will do the job.

Shiny new liferaft
We prepared our Christmas corner and attempted to get a good night sleep before the long week ahead.

Look at Santa on the table, he is our Christmas present from Debbie and it is really nice to make the boat so festive

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Where have we been! What are we up to!

We have been rushing around in the UK for 3 weeks and would love to share some beautiful photos of the New Forest and the lovely time we had but no time to update the blog as we are back in Tenerife and off to the Cape Verdes.  Updates will be brief but we will update with our position over the next week or so on our other blog so please take a look -

Friday, November 16, 2012

Dan in Tenerife

The next day we picked Dan up at the airport and initially headed to Mendano which is a windsurfing resort that Mark had visited over 20 years ago, it was a bit grey and not that windy but still nice for him to revisit.

Mark & Dan at Mendano

We then drove off up to Mount Teide, the road up is through lovely pine forests and before you know it you are above the clouds.

Above the clouds through the pine forest
Then you rise up a few more 100 metres and you are on the plateau of the volcano, the summit at 3718m it is the highest point in Spain and measured from the sea bed it is the third highest volcano in the world.  Suddenly you are driving across the lava fields and the temperature had dropped dramatically, we were not hugely prepared with Mark in his shorts! Although little chance of a new eruption, last eruption was 1909.

The peak of mount Teide

The mass of lava fields into the distance
We did not go up in the cable car but still had a great sunny drive and it was odd descending down the mountain into the rain cloud.

The next day it was another grey and cloudy one but we drove up to the Anaga mountains in the north east corner of Tenerife, not far from Santa Cruz.  They are quite pretty and would make some good walking but we were not prepared for the drizzle and cold so it was just a sight seeing tour to admire the views although they would have been better without the rain clouds.

Windy our way through the mountains

The view west toward Tiede (somewhere in the distance) from Anaga Mountains 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

What are we up to in Tenerife

The marina is in the centre of Santa Cruz although it is still a 10-15 minutes walk into the town, it is quite odd being in such a built up area with the noise of cars and ferries all day and night.  After a couple of days we had a hire car booked to enable us to see some more of the island, sounded easy to pick it up from the North airport as only 25 minutes away on the bus but wasn’t so straight forward as Gold Car is a bus journey away from the airport and we waited over an hour for our car! No more complaining just a word of warning.

We visited Puerto de la Cruz which is a quite a nice tourist resort, with some old buildings mingled in with the new tat touristy shops.  Seemed to be full of German and British tourists quite busy even in November.

Mark in Puerto de la Cruz
On our way back to the boat we stopped in Decathlon (sports shop) which would have been great apart from the car was broken into in the carpark, again I only mention this as a word of warning as this was a well lit busy carpark and they broke in both front and boot and managed to unlock and lock the car!

The next day we were up at the crack of dawn to visit Loro Parque, this was originally a bird park when it was open in the 1970’s but has grown  closer to a wildlife park.  Although we often avoid the tourist attractions because of our budget constraints but I have wanted to visit Loro Parque for years to see the birds so this was a bit of an extravagance but worth it!  Loro Parque donate a large amount of money to conservation mainly around parrots but also in other areas such as Gorillas and there was a great Gorilla enclosure.

There are also some really good marine life shows, I still have very mixed feelings about the animals being kept in captivity but the shows were pretty spectacular.  During the dolphin show we were impressed how high they jumped, over 6 metres which would have been plenty high enough to jump over Magnum!

Dolphin show
The killer whale show was also very impressive although still a bit upsetting to see such huge animals in such a small pool but they did seem to enjoy jumping around.

Yes that really is a killer whale!
There was also an impressive penguin house which was snowing, with various different species including the Humboldt, Emperor Penguin, Rock hoppers. 

Humboldt penguins

Emperor penguins
The also had a small enclosure for Puffins, we love these birds and have spent years hoping to see one in the wild but it was almost as nice seeing there little happy faces.

Ahhhh a lovely little Puffin
Also very impressed by the number of different Macaw species, more than we have seen at any other bird park – Hyacinth, Scarlett, Blue & Yellow, Yellow fronted, Military, we were there for a while whilst Amanda said hello to all of them.

Hyacinth Macaw

Avery full of young Macaws
We had a great day out and it was worth a visit, look at how much fun Mark with his pineapple head is having.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Puerto Calero, Lanzarote to Santa Cruz, Tenerife

We finally left Puerto Calero on 5th November after almost 1 month, we knew the winds were forecasted to be light but we had to get going as the strong southerlies a few days before had already delayed our departure and we had commitments in Tenerife on the 8th.

Leaving Puerto Calero with my nice clean fender on the side deck

The yellow haze on the horizon is the dust from Africa which is blown in the wind
We had a force 2-3 north-north easterly so motor sailed towards Fuerteventura with the occasional downpour of rain which was not forecasted! By 12pm were passing Playa Blanca on one side and Isla Lobos with Fuerteventura in the background.

The closest we will get to Fuerteventura
With the wind settling at around 10 knots from the east, Mark decided it was spinnaker time and the preparation began, thankfully the wind remained whilst he prepared the lines and we hoisted the spinnaker and set off at 7 knots. For about 40 minutes it was glorious downwind sailing then the wind died and engine was on again.

Spinnaker up
The wind then grew to force 5 south easterly and both sails were full for a couple of hours, then the wind died again and we were back to motoring, this was the routine we settled into for the rest of the day and into the night and at every opportunity we attempted to sail as we were sick of the sound of the engine.  With the sun setting around 6.30pm and thye moon not rising until 23.30 the night was long and we both had various attempts to sleep, Amanda  as always was the most successful and when she got up around 7am after being asleep for just over 5 hours Mark was desperate for his turn.

The remainder of the journey was pretty uneventful; we had various stints of sailing but lots of motoring. It was like being back in the Med! The skies were grey and we could often hear the thunder in the distance and see the lightening.  We did see a pod of pilot whales (we think) around 10 miles off Tenerife but they didn’t come very close –  after attending a presentation on Whales and Dolphins at Puerto Calero we felt quite confident in identifying them.  About the same time we were hit by the thunderstorm luckily we were on the edge but the thunder was very loud and we switched all our instruments off and sheltered from the rain. The mainland was still looking pretty grey as we approached.

Clouds over north of Tenerife
Santa Cruz had almost disappeared at points but we could see the Independence of the Seas, this cruise ship always amazes me as is over 1 mile long and over the last 18 months she has cropped up all over our travels.

A grey Santa Cruz with a distant Independence of the Seas